Tag Archives: sin

Are You Sure You Want God to Completely Eradicate Evil?

“Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?” – Epicurus

“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.” – Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Great Britain: Bantam Press, 2006), 31.

One of the reasons I’m a Christian is because it is the best, most coherent explanation of life on this world. It’s not perfect, but it’s the best. When I look at modern atheistic beliefs I notice some contradictions that make it, as a worldview, illogical and in this post I’d like to look at one: the problem of evil. On one hand, atheists will point to evil in the world around us as proof that God does not exist (or if He does, then He is clearly ‘malevolent’ for allowing such evil). On the other hand, they’ll point to instances in the Old Testament, such as the Flood or Sodom and Gomorrah, where God actively opposed evil and say that God is not a loving god, but clearly a bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser. This means that atheists believe that God is bad for not stopping evil yet God is bad when He does stop evil. Or, to break it down a little differently:

  • Evil exists unstopped, therefore God is bad.
  • God stops evil, therefore God is bad.

Or, to phrase it yet another way:

  • “God is evil for allowing sin.”
  • “God is evil for stopping sin.”

This is clearly a contradiction. You cannot bemoan both the fact that God has not rid the world of evil and the fact that God killed evil people at any time in human history. This is a logical inconsistency.

So which is it? Would you rather God restrains His power to stop evil, or God unleashes His wrath and purges the world of evil?

Now, before you answer that anyone would obviously want God to stop evil, give it some thought. The way I phrased that—God unleashes His wrath and purges the world of evil—means that ridding the world of evil would not be pretty.

Evil is much like a cancer; it contaminates and perverts everything it touches. Our entire world is fallen, corrupted, and tarnished: every person, family, community, city, state, country, culture, and continent. No one and nothing has escaped the cosmic consequences of The Fall. Like sand in the desert, evil is everywhere and, try as we might and no matter how much we want to hide it, we cannot cleanse evil from this world. Only God could rid the desert of sand. Only God has the power to rid the planet of evil.

So, the obvious question becomes: what would it take for God to stop evil? Well, to continue the cancer analogy, how do we get rid of cancer? We cut it out and destroy it. How could God get rid of evil? Could He flick a switch and rid the world of evil? Not likely. You see, evil is so rampant in our world that the only way for God to forever rid the world of evil is by cleansing it with the utter destruction of every man, woman, and child on the surface of the planet. Consider how God stopped evil during the Flood (Gen. 7:21-23) or in the case of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:24-25). Are you sure you want God to stop evil? Then perhaps you are evil.

Perhaps some will still ask “then whence cometh evil?” The problem is, in light of the reality that God does oppose evil and that He will stop evil, this is an ironically self-condemning question. Anyone who asks “then whence cometh evil” needs to look in the mirror and realize that evil isn’t ‘out there.’ Instead, evil comes from within (Jeremiah 17:9; Matthew 15:19-20; Mark 7:21-23). We are the source of evil, not God. God tolerates our rebellion for now out of love and patience for us because He has a plan.

Instead of instantly purging the world of evil, God is in the process of reconciling all things to Himself through Christ (Colossians 1:19-20). God is on a rescue mission to save those who are His enemies by calling them to repentance and salvation. It is a gradual cleansing process that takes time and requires that evil be allowed to exist for now. So, could God stop evil? Yes, but there wouldn’t be anyone around to see what was left.

Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. Romans 2:3-5, emphasis added

 

Romans 8: Bridging the Gap Between My Failures and God’s Grace

Romans 8

Before we get started, here are four things you need to know…

  • I attend Colossae, where I currently serve as an intern.
  • We are preaching our way through Romans. We focus on the ‘big thoughts’ of the letter instead of diving into the subtle nuances of each verse or phrase.
  • The pastors and interns gather weekly for a sermon prep meeting (my pastor has written about on his blog here, here, and here).
  • At Home Depot, I usually spend about 2 hours alone stocking the shelves before the store opens at 6. During this time, I’ve started listening to the Romans section that we’ll discuss in our next sermon prep meeting. For example, if we’re meeting to discuss chapter 6, I’ll listen to 5-7 to get the feel for what the letter said before the passage, what the passage says, and what the next passage says. I feel like this helps me think about the passage in the larger context of the entire letter of Romans. Also, I’ll listen to it mostly in the English Standard Version, but will listen to the New American Standard Bible, the New Living Translation, the New International Version, and sometimes the Holman Christian Standard Bible. I feel like this helps me see it from multiple perspectives and forces me to actively listen because each one is subtly different.

Okay, now that we’re all caught up…

For the last few weeks I’ve been obsessing a little bit about Romans 6-8. I used to think I loved Romans 8, but not compared to how much I love it now. You see, in Romans 6, we’re taught that we who have died to sin (Rom. 6:6) are now alive to God (Rom. 6:11). Furthermore, we are now slaves to Christ (Rom. 6:18) and follow a path and process that leads to eternal life (Rom. 6:22). In the same way that a woman is no longer legally married to a man after he dies but can freely remarry, we are remarried to Christ so we can bring glory to God (Rom. 7:4).

The only problem is our death to sin is a spiritual reality that has not yet been physically manifested; that doesn’t happen until after our physical death and resurrection (Rom. 8:23). We’re stuck in an in-between state; the check has been written but it hasn’t been cashed yet. This is why we still sin (Rom. 7:14-15); because there is a tension that exists within us (Rom. 7:25).

But!!! Even though we make mistakes, there is no condemnation for Christians (Rom. 8:1) because Jesus condemned sin in the flesh (Rom. 8:3). We may be influenced by the flesh (Rom. 7:20), but we are not dominated by the flesh (Rom. 6:6; 8:11). This means we battle the flesh by the power of the Spirit (Rom. 7:13) because we have been adopted (Rom. 8:16). We have a new identity that isn’t determined by our actions or even our failures but who God says we are. The fact that we are part of God’s family means that we are heirs with Christ and will be glorified with Christ, but we will also suffer with Him (Rom. 8:17).

However!!! The suffering we endure in this life pales in comparison to the glory awaiting us (Rom. 8:18) and we wait patiently to meet the Father who has adopted us because we understand that it will be worth the wait (Rom. 8:25). This is the check that has been written but is not yet cashed. In fact, the Holy Spirit helps us (Rom. 8:26) as we continue to be transformed to look more and more like Christ so that, when we ‘go home,’ we’ll fit in the family of God (Rom. 8:29).

In fact!!! Because Christ is on our side, no one and nothing in all creation (Rom. 8:38-39) can stand against us (Rom. 8:33). We have been irrevocably adopted by God; He chose us before the creation of the earth (Eph. 1:4-5).

So here’s what I’m realizing. Chapter 7 spends about 17 verses talking about our failures and our inability to be perfect. But this is bookended by Romans 6 & 8 where God spends almost 70 verses assuring us that we are free from sin (Rom. 6:7), and are now slaves to righteousness (Rom. 6:18); that we have a new identity and belong to Christ (Rom. 7:4); that we face no condemnation (Rom. 8:1, 33-34); that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us (Rom. 8:26) and that even Christ intercedes for us at the right hand of God (Rom. 8:34)! Romans 9 continues this line of thought by explaining that God’s choice cannot be revoked by any mortal (Rom. 9:16).

So, my question for Christians is this: why do you let your failures haunt you and condemn you if God does not? The whole ‘if God is for us, who can be against us?’ idea applies to you, too! If God is for you, how can you be against yourself?

Who will condemn you? You? Christ Jesus is interceding for us. Will you condemn yourself? Do you really think your guilt outweighs the power of both the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ interceding on our behalf? Do we think our failures revoke God’s choice to adopt us? Who do we think we are? God? If God is for us, who can be against us? Our failures don’t define us in God’s eyes; Christ’s finished work and resurrection define us. God doesn’t look at our failures; He looks at our new identity as His slaves/children (seems weird to us, but that’s what the text says; think of us as adopted slaves).

During Christmas time, all these thoughts swimming around in my head help me appreciate the lengths to which Christ was willing to go to make sure that I could be adopted into God’s family. I praise God that, despite my failures, He chose to adopt me. I praise Christ because He chose to come and bridge the gap between sinfulness and God’s mercy. I praise the Spirit for helping me as I await the redemption of my body. God was willing to bridge the gap so that I could be adopted into His family; for that I am eternally grateful.

Themes in Proverbs

While taking a class with Professor Carl Laney, I ran across an excellent list of “Themes in Proverbs.” This is his list but I thought it was worth sharing. He starts by saying “The individual proverbs are not generally grouped together topically or in a thematic series. They are quite mixed and any one chapter may contain a great variety of topics. Some of the more important themes and topics in Proverbs include the following: Continue reading Themes in Proverbs

holiness won’t be our aim

Sin is falling into grace and disappearing from our concerns… When we don’t see the gravity of sin, we won’t be reliant upon God for the grace of sanctification and transformation, and holiness won’t be our aim in life. So, let’s look at what sin is, where sin wants to take us and what sin does to us.

Scot McKnight, Why Doesn’t Anybody Talk about Sin?

Hate Sin.

Recently I ran across this Facebook status from a pastor friend of mine:

Yesterday, I ran across that age-old idea of “Hate the sin; love the sinner.” My response was, “Or just love the sinner?” I’m pretty sure the world doesn’t need anymore of my hatred, nor can I find any scriptural evidence where hatred trumps love.
So, here’s to Love!

First, I’ll say that it is completely possible I misunderstood the intention of that status update and that this blog post is a complete waste of time.

Second, I completely agree that Christians need to grow in love and grace. This is an area where we all fall short because we are imperfect humans. I know this to be true most vividly in my own heart because I know myself most truly. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater!

I think part of loving others more truly though, is by helping them, not tolerating that which is most lethal to them. I love my daughter, which is why, if I saw her playing with a cobra, I would rescue her! I love my wife, which is why, if I saw my wife running across an interstate during rush hour with ear buds in and a blindfold on, I would rescue her!

There were a couple things that I thought were a little unclear in the status. Most specifically, what does the phrase “nor can I find any scriptural evidence where hatred trumps love” mean? Does that mean there are no Bible verses where we’re told to hate something? That’s not true (as demonstrated below). Truthfully, you won’t find something if you don’t look for it.

I’ve spent some time reflecting on this status update and have decided that I very strongly disagree for a couple of reasons (in no particular order).

  1. Not only is this statement unbiblical, it’s actually counter-Biblical (which is far worse). Scripture is replete with verses that either directly tell us to hate sin or show us that loving God leads to hating sin. Please allow me to demonstrate:
    • Proverbs 8:13: To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.
    • Psalm 5:5: The arrogant cannot stand in your presence. You hate all who do wrong… (This verse actually makes it sound like God hates the sinner and the sin.)
    • Psalm 11:5: The LORD examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion. (Like the previous one, this verse also makes it sound like God hates the sinner and the sin.)
    • Psalm 97:10: Let those who love the LORD hate evil, for he guards the lives of his faithful ones and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.
    • Psalm 119:104: I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.
    • Psalm 119:128: and because I consider all your precepts right, I hate every wrong path.
    • Proverbs 13:5: The righteous hate what is false, but the wicked make themselves a stench and bring shame on themselves.
    • 2 Chronicles 19:2: Jehu the seer, the son of Hanani, went out to meet him and said to the king, “Should you help the wicked and love those who hate the LORD? Because of this, the wrath of the LORD is on you. (This verse makes it sound as though we shouldn’t love those who hate the Lord.)
    • Ezekiel 35:6: therefore as surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I will give you over to bloodshed and it will pursue you. Since you did not hate bloodshed, bloodshed will pursue you.
    • Amos 5:15: Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts. Perhaps the LORD God Almighty will have mercy on the remnant of Joseph. (This is a direct command to hate evil.)
    • Romans 12:9: Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. (Another direct, clear command to hate evil.)
  2. This statement doesn’t actually make sense when you plug specific sins into it. For example:
    • “Love the pedophile but hate pedophilia? Or just love the pedophile?”
    • “Love the hungry but hate starvation? Or just love the hungry?”
    • “Love the naked but hate nakedness? Or just love the naked?”
    • “Love the raped but hate raping? Or just love the raped?”
    • “Love the lonely but hate loneliness? Or just love the lonely?”
    • “Love the Godless but hate Godlessness? Or just love the Godless?”
    • “Love the idolater but hate idolatry? Or just love the idolater?”
    • “Love the sinner but hate sin? Or just love the sinner?”
  3. You can’t “love” a person and NOT hate that which is forever tarnishing and damning their eternal soul. It would be like someone finding out their spouse has an aggressive, lethal form of cancer and simply saying, “I love my wife but don’t hate the cancer that is destroying her body.” Love does not tolerate sin in others (1 Cor. 13:6), but seeks what is best for their soul.
  4. As my pastor so eloquently said, “GRACE and TOLERANCE are different. Grace points us toward truth (Tit. 2:11-14); tolerance let’s us run freely from it. Tricky.” Tolerating sin in someone’s life is not loving them. Loving them is helping them as they pursue holiness.
  5. Christ suffered for sins (1 Peter 3:18), therefore, if we love Christ, we must hate the thing which caused Him to suffer.
  6. Scot McKnight wrote an excellent article a while back. Here are some pertinent excerpts:
    • When we don’t see the gravity of sin, we won’t be reliant upon God for the grace of sanctification and transformation, and holiness won’t be our aim in life.
    • Humans ache to rule the cosmos. They want to be God. The ache to be God and acting as if we are God are what sin is all about.
    • Sin, at its core, usurps God’s place in this world and puts us there instead.
    • Sin damages our self-identity, changes our relations with God from love and trust to fear and mistrust, damages our loving union with one another to become a war of wills against one another, and sin also has cosmic effects—we find the world to be red in tooth and claw.
    • The Bible tells us not only that God is gracious and loving, but it reveals an unforgettable statement in Leviticus: “Be holy because I am holy.” Let us not forget we are summoned by God to make our pursuit in life a pursuit that is simultaneously after love and after holiness.
  7. Sin is toxic. James 1:13-15 and Romans 5:12 are clear where sin leads: death! How can we not hate that which kills everything it touches and alienates us from our Creator?
  8. This was posted by a pastor! A pastor who doesn’t hate sin is like an oncologist who doesn’t hate cancer, a fitness-guru who doesn’t hate obesity, a judge who doesn’t hate corruption, a teacher who doesn’t hate illiteracy, a policeman who doesn’t hate violence, or a fireman who doesn’t hate arson. In effect, what’s the point?

In conclusion, I think that a proper understanding of sin’s blatant affront to God’s character leaves us no option but to hate sin. Our love of God will produce a natural hatred of sin. Love of God is the point, but hatred of sin is an inevitable by-product. So, here’s to love!

If we would make it evident that our conversion is sound we must loathe and hate sin from the heart; now a man shall know his hatred of evil to be true, first if it be universal. He that hates sin truly hates all sin. Secondly, where there is true hatred it is fixed; there is no appeasing it, but by abolishing the thing it hates. Thirdly, hatred is a more rooted affection than anger; anger may be appeased, but hatred is against the whole kind. Fourthly, if our hatred be true, we hate all evil in ourselves first, and then in others. He that hates a toad would hate it most in his own bosom. Many like Judah are severe in censuring others but are partial to themselves (Genesis 38:24). Fifthly, he that hates sin truly, hates the greatest sin in the greatest measure; he hates all evil in a just proportion. Sixthly, our hatred is right if we can endure admonition and reproof for sin and not be enraged with him that tells us of it; therefore those that swell against reproof, hate not sin; only with this caution, it may be done with such indiscretion and self-love that a man may hate the reprover’s proud manner. In disclosing our hatred of sin in others, we must consider our calling; it must be done in a sweet temper, reserving due respect to those to whom reproof is offered, that it may be done out of true zeal, and not out of anger nor pride.

– Richard Sibbes (via Tim Challies)

Scot McKnight on the damage of sin

Sin damages our self-identity, changes our relations with God from love and trust to fear and mistrust, damages our loving union with one another to become a war of wills against one another, and sin also has cosmic effects—we find the world to be red in tooth and claw.

Every sin damages. Not just the big ones.

Scot McKnight, Why Doesn’t Anybody Talk about Sin?